October 25, 2016 –
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico – "Whoever shall behold the image of Saint Christopher shall not faint or fall on that day," states the Legend of Saint Christopher from the U.S. Army Transportation Corps' induction ceremony narrative.
Saint Christopher – the patron saint of the Transportation Corps Regiment – was one of the most popular saints during antiquity and early Middle Ages. Usually pictured carrying Christ and symbolically the weight of the world’s sins across a river, the image of Saint Christopher offers a fitting symbol of strength, loyalty, and safety for Transporters charged with “Moving the Force” now and for all time.
The Transportation Corps formed in 1942, and in 1998 the Army instituted the order of St. Christopher medal to recognize outstanding transporters. Staff Sgt. Omar Rodriguez, a native of Bayamon, was inducted into the Order of Saint Christopher during a ceremony held on Fort Buchanan, October 23.
Rodriguez enlisted in the military 16 years ago, after the attack on the twin towers. “The attack was the reason why I joined,” said Rodriguez. “I was supposed to enlist as a water purification specialist but ended up joining as an 88H, cargo specialist.”
As a cargo specialist, Rodriguez loaded ships and worked at a rail-head for about a year and a half doing the “muscle part” of transportation. During his first deployment to Afghanistan in 2008, he decided it was time to change jobs and re-enlisted as an 88N, movement coordinator.
“During my 15-month rotation to Afghanistan, I was a part of a movement control battalion, and I saw the opportunity to increase my knowledge,” said Rodriguez. “I reviewed movement plans for an entire country, 72 hours out. We planned everything distribution-wise, and I got to see firsthand how our job impacts folks; whether sending Class I supplies their way because they are running low on food or resupplying them with Class III material because they need fuel.”
Having seen fellow senior noncommissioned officers and officers receive the Order of Saint Christopher, Rodriguez knew what it meant to receive such an award but did not exactly work towards earning one. “I mean, whoever works towards it,” expressed Rodriguez. “I just focus on doing my job.”
Being inducted into the Order of Saint Christopher is no small task. It takes someone to nominate that person and then prepare their packet and post their recommendations for review by senior transporters from just a few links up the chain of command all the way to the Department of the Army's Chief of Transportation. Rodriguez is thankful that his leadership believed in him and his abilities as a transporter to nominate him as a recipient.
“I nominated Staff Sgt. Rodriguez because I have seen his performance as a transporter,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Rene Berlingeri, Ancient Order of Saint Christopher recipient. “When he was a part of the 268th Maintenance Company, I was his first sergeant and he demonstrated a great deal of knowledge. His performance is a blueprint of what a ‘Transporter’ should be.”
“Knowing that someone thought I deserved this honor, it means a lot,” said Rodriguez. “They have seen my contributions to the transportation corps and not only did my fellow transporters and leaders believe in me, the regimental association felt I deserved it too.”
The military order of Saint Christopher is not very well known to many individuals and Rodriguez wants to spread the word and inform other transporters. “If given the opportunity to be a transporter, just go out and do it,” said Rodriguez. “It doesn’t matter what rank you are; you can impact so much by just doing your job. It is a very rewarding MOS, and we are here to support the Warfighter.”
“I believe that awarding Soldiers the Order of Saint Christopher is a great way to add value to our organization,” said Berlingeri. “It is a lengthy process but it is well worth it. It is important that we highlight the great work our Transporters do throughout the 1st Mission Support Command.”
Rodriguez works as the operations NCO for the 166th Regional Support Group and hopes to be able to get back into transportation during his next assignment. “I hope I can get back into transportation,” said Rodriguez, “I want to get back to what I am supposed to do.”
For Rodriguez, the induction is a defining moment –the pinnacle of a career for any transporter.